Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, visited with students at Denham Town High School on Tuesday (June 6), where he offered positive tips and advice to boost their confidence, reduce stress and strengthen their mental health.
The intervention, which included stress-management techniques and an exercise session, was part of the ministry’s School Mental Health Literacy Programme aimed at promoting mental wellness among the youth and reducing stigma.
As part of the programme, the ministry will be doing ‘wellness check-ins’ at a number of high schools across the island ahead of the start of the summer holidays.
Ultimately, it is hoped that the initiative, which involves collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Youth, will contribute to creating a positive mindset among students and address disorderly conduct.
Speaking to the Denham Town High students, Tufton encouraged them to have confidence in themselves and their ability to succeed.
“We are here to help you to understand that you can become anything that you want to be and we want you to become something in life. What lasts more than anything else is education, skills, and every one of you has the ability to have a skill.
“Good health and prosperity come with the right mindset and attitude, and none of you is less than anybody elsewhere. You can do anything you want, all you have to do is set your mind to it,” the Minister said.
Tufton contended that mental health challenges are now more a norm than an exception, and so “we cannot only intervene to cure but also to preserve and to sustain lifestyle practices that allow us to cope and be the best that we can be”.
He noted that while the school helps to inculcate good habits “it is also fertile for bad habits, and so we have to start there”.
Principal of Denham Town High, Donovan Hunter, said the visit of the minister was a “welcome intervention”.
He expressed optimism that with support “we will see a transformation of our institution in terms of student behaviour and academic performance”.
The School Mental Health Literacy Programme will equip educators, school nurses and guidance counsellors to administer “mental health first aid” to the targeted students.
More than 500 school professionals will be trained, who will, in turn, train others to impart the learning to more than 21,000 students across 177 schools islandwide.
The goal of the programme, which is being implemented at a cost of $10 million, is to equip students with competencies in mental health literacy. This includes understanding how to optimise and maintain good mental health; understanding mental disorders/treatments; reducing stigma; and enhancing help-seeking efficacy, which is knowing when/where to get help and having the skills to promote self-care and to obtain good care.
The intervention continues on Wednesday (June 7), with Dr Tufton and his team visiting the Bridgeport High School in Portmore, St Catherine.